What Is Your Goal as a Parent?
If you have children, this is a good question to think about. The fact is that raising children keeps you busy. Between diapers, appointments, meals, school, sports, and everything else involved with simply keeping a child alive and functioning we don’t often stop to think what the point of all this is. What is your goal as a parent?
Like anything else in life, without a goal we tend to drift. We start to just go through the motions.
If I’m honest, my primary personal goal for my children has been to provide them with a simple, memorable, wholesome childhood. When they are 30 or 40 I want them to be able to look back with fondness on their childhood and have good memories of it. This was a primary reason we moved to a more rural area where we can have some land and where the kids can explore and play outside. Where they can swing on the tire swing, pick berries, watch baby birds in their nest and find toads. Where they can eat tomatoes straight from the garden, raise chickens and go sledding.
There is nothing wrong with any of this. In fact, these are all good, wonderful things.
But it isn’t enough.
Our primary goal should be to have our children know Jesus and follow him whole-heartedly.
Unfortunately, this isn’t easy. It isn’t easy because to really accomplish this, we must know Jesus and follow him whole-heartedly ourselves, because if our children don’t see this as real in our own lives they aren’t likely to live it out in their lives. It also isn’t easy because sometimes even if we do our job well, our children make decisions that aren’t what we would like.
In Deuteronomy 6, after God gives the Israelites His commands He tells them this:
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
I love these verses. What I notice is that the burden of teaching God’s commandments falls on the parents. It doesn’t say “Have the priests impress them on your children”, or “send your children to the tabernacle to learn the commandments.” It says that his commandments should be upon our hearts, and that we are to impress them on our children, talk about them, and display them in our homes.
Teaching our children about God’s word so that they can come to know Jesus and follow him should be our primary goal as parents. This requires that we ourselves have this as the primary goal of our lives, and that we actively and intentionally instruct our children in this.
Sunday School is good, church is good, Youth Group is good, Christian radio is good, private school is good; but first and foremost, the teaching needs to come from parents in the home!
There are lots of practical ways to do this. Here are a few things that we’ve found helpful:
1.) Make sure you are personally reading the Bible and praying. Your children notice this. If they see you reading the Bible each morning, they will come to see this as both normal and important. Like anything else in life, if you tell them they should read the Bible but they never see you doing it, they will begin to question whether it really matters.
2.) Pray. Not just at meal times and bedtime (although these are certainly good), but throughout your regular life. We usually stop and pray every time we hear an ambulance or fire engine, or before we leave for a trip, or when we see a beautiful sunset.
3.) Talk about what the Bible says on matters of morality. We are fairly open with our children when it comes to discussing current events, or current moral debates. We want to be the ones to teach them truth before they begin hearing false messages from outside sources. Whenever possible, we discuss what the Bible has to say about these issues. We also stress that no matter what we’ve done, Jesus offers forgiveness for our sins.
4.) Don’t be a hypocrite. Obviously we all fail at this sometimes, but overall we strive to live Christ-like lives. If we don’t have a genuine faith, our children aren’t very likely to have a genuine faith.
There are countless other things that you can do to help your Children learn to know God. Be intentional and do them! What have you found works well for your family? I’d love to hear your ideas.
Just remember, keep your focus on the proper goal!